Childhood, family, love, Poetry, special

Yesterday

at the children’s section
of the library
you read six books to me,
us both huddled on the floor,
surrounded by other children,
mothers, fathers also
reading, jumping, running
punctuated by the occasional
scream.

For a while I felt
we were like everyone else;
just another seven-year-old
breathing life into words
and his father also,
fearing, hoping, tearing
punctated by the occasional
dream.

My son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was three.

At that time, he couldn’t speak a word and was very sensitive to certain stimuli (for example certain sounds or images would cause extreme pain or fear). He had frequent meltdowns because he could neither understand the world around him nor communicate with it.

The child psychologist cautioned us that our son might never be able to talk, have friends or get a job. He might need long term care for the rest of his life.

Those were dark times.

But now, four years on, with early intervention, occupational and speech therapy, an amazing mother who spends almost every waking moment trying to figure out ways to help him, a loving grandma who is his comfort and shelter, ever-supportive relatives and friends; and by God’s grace, whenever I look at my son, I am reminded how he is beyond my imagination.

Childhood, family, love, memory, Poetry

ice cream soda dreams

grandpa was not rich
but bestowed us a fortune
of sweets, chocolate coins
or twenty cents to buy our own.

grandpa was not rich
but gave us our first wheels,
scavenged from spare parts
racing corridors, pounding hearts.

grandpa was not rich,
but he made butter sugar dream
sandwiches, washed down ice cream
soda at a rental flat in Ghim Moh.

grandpa was not rich,
but he always had time,
voice booming, confident, kind,
escaping, eluding, memories of mine.

He was never ever rich
but we could give him nothing more
than what we had, ourselves, in which
my grandfather was never ever poor.

Childhood, family, love, memory

To be three

They say you don’t remember
Anything before the age of four.
Don’t remember that thumb
jammed in the door,
Don’t remember that tooth
Chipped on the floor,
Don’t remember tantrums
In the toy store,

Don’t remember your mom’s
Sleepless nights,
Don’t remember your dad’s
Tired sighs,
Don’t remember your brother’s
Protective lies.

You won’t remember the castles
Built of pillows for stone,
The snowmen made of clothes
Carelessly thrown,
You won’t remember being tucked up
Late at night,
You won’t remember the first time
You said goodnight.

But we do.

With love, your family.
Happy Birthday, dear Sophie.

love, Poetry, Politics

Moving parts

We make plans.

Enter into
………. contracts, marriages, mortgages.
Look up weather forecasts
………. for the week, the month, the year
when our city will be six feet
under water.

We make telescopes
………. to see stars already dead,
We read horoscopes
………. to see futures all ready made.
We have children
………. to see what cannot be said.

We make plans.

 

Background:

Singapore is really big on plans. We plan time and space ever so finely, trying to cater for every eventuality, cover every position, hedge every bet.

It’s something you see right from the moment you step out of the aerobridge at Changi Airport: a cold, clinical obsession with the best laid plans.

On the surface, it’s great – almost everything works and runs on time. On the rare (although slowly increasing) occasion when there are failures, it’s because (pesky, frail, human) humans didn’t stick to the plan.

We fancy we’ve gotten so good at planning that we even use a lack of planning as a reason to justify poverty and income inequality, (ironically, this article is behind a paywall as it is labelled by the Straits Times as a “Premium Story”).

There’s a timeline for everything, from birth to death, to keep the wheels turning. Keep up the pace and stick to the plan – you will have a reasonably safe existence.

But there is just one tiny, nagging little problem.

We make our plans based on the past prejudices, on what what has happened rather than what we want to happen. We make our plans on what we want to avoid rather than what we want to achieve. And in doing so, we make our future small.

Yet, enough of us are content to pace this treadmill, blinkers on, banking our futures on the past.